Dear President Trump,
Yesterday I wrote about the argument Ruth Marcus developed on the end of shame among politicians. Today I want to venture there is another, very different and much more welcome, version of the end of shame getting traction as women and men come forward in droves about the sexual harassment and assault they experienced. Being immune or impervious to shame as I believe you to be, it is unlikely you can really understand the shame many victims of inappropriate sexual behavior feel in response to these experiences and why it is so important that we are making inroads towards ending it. In order for you to maybe grasp the import of these shifts, I am going to provide a brief tutorial on shame in the aftermath of sexual harassment and assault.
An especially critical source of shame is foisted onto victims by perpetrators through sick name calling, twisted insistence they brought the abuse on or caused it themselves, messages of worthlessness, and coerced cooperation (there are a dozen other equally noxious tactics, but these are some of the main ones). Often victims are confused and repulsed by these shaming messages but are so shaken and in need of some explanation for what happened to them that they will, at least to some extent, take on feeling responsible for what happened even as they intellectually understand this to be incorrect. This leads to silence about the experience and to a sort of radar for every cultural message of victim blaming and minimizing of abuse, which further augers in the secrecy and shame. You and other boors have pompously blasted women and men for not coming forward immediately when these things happen to them but really, it is rare that people have the support and wherewithal shortly after such experiences to risk further humiliation in the form of disbelief and/or blame should they come forward with allegations of harassment or assault.
However, as millions of women and thousands of men stop keeping these ugly secrets, we have a chance for victims to jettison the burden of shame. Even if the rightful recipients of the shame duck and deny it, when survivors no longer own it, everything is fundamentally changed for the better.
May we be safe from abuse.
May we be happy in our bodies.
May we have healthy frames of reference.
May we raise the next generation to be ashamed if they do shameful things and not if shameful things are done to them.